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Russian steel group NLMK warns against EU sanctions, job losses

Picture taken June 30, 2003 shows a worker taking a sample of steel in a workshop of Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK) in Lipetsk, central Russia

The European arm of Russian steel giant NLMK has warned the EU against imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, officials said on Wednesday.

The European Commission confirmed it had received a letter, which was also sent to Belgium, Denmark, France and Italy where NLMK has operations, spelling out that such sanctions would inevitably lead to heavy job losses.

NLMK said all concerned should consider the "possible negative impact" sanctions could have on its European business, on consumers and other partners in Europe, as well as on the European economy as a whole, La Libre Belgique reported, citing the letter.

Since parts of the business in Europe were already loss-making, their position would become even more difficult, leading to inevitable "lay-offs of thousands of workers who earned wages worth 161 million euros in 2013," the letter said.

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Caroline Marlair, a spokeswoman for NLMK Europe, said separately the "letter is not a threat, it is a letter of prevention ... to make people aware of the possible consequences."

NMLK Europe depends on unfinished goods from its Russian parent and if that supply was reduced or cut, then its business can only suffer, Marlair said.

NLMK, owned by Vladimir Lisin who Forbes lists as one of Russia's wealthiest oligarchs, employs directly about 2,500 people in Europe, with about 1,000 in Belgium.

The European Union has so far imposed visa bans and asset freezes on nearly 40 Ukrainian and Russian figures, some of them very close to President Vladimir Putin.

It has threatened to go further to a "Phase 3" of broader economic sanctions if Moscow does not reverse course although there are sharp divisions within the 28-member bloc over a step which could harm its own interests.

Last week, EU sources said member states were given a report on the possible impact these tougher 'Phase 3' sanctions could have.